Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cutting Down the Armholes on 18th Century Stays

I kind of guessed and free-handed a pattern for my new set of 18th century stays from an older pair that didn't fit so well.  What I came out of it with was a general design that worked pretty well, but when I laced it up, I couldn't lower my arms all the way.  Oops.  Time to pick out the stitches on the top binding, re-cut a few bones, and fix the problem.

The bones are cable ties from Home Depot, and I like to melt the ends of them to keep them from wearing through the fabric on the stays.

There are a couple of decent articles out there on alternatives for boning.  Whale bone is obviously out of the question, and I find that cable ties are a cost effective, durable, and good-looking option.

Mode Hisorique has a good one:

Jenny LaFleur goes into some detail on the wear here:

And a really cool article I found written by an author who has tried actual baleen, and was able to compare it to other options out there.  Her conclusion:  reproduction baleen is not the answer:

After reading these, I feel a bit better about "cheating" and using cable ties.

Here we have a set of before and after shots.I cut out about an inch from the armhole.  Now to find some more of that pink silk to extend the binding.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Regency Sari Dress, Version 2.0

Been away for some while.  Life has been eventful (in the best possible way).  For a fancy dress Regency event in CT this October, I decided to re-work an oldie.

It began its life as a silk sari that I wore to an event in New Orleans in 2010.  After that event, I re-cut it for a regency dance event.  Knowing almost nothing about the period, I used the awful Simplicity "Jane Austen" pattern.  It makes me smile now.

The new pattern for the 2014 re-cut is adapted from Janet Arnold, and was re-cut from the first one I attempted to make using that wretched Simplicity "Jane Austen" pattern.  The back of the Simplicity pattern is a bit too wide at the center for a proper early 19th century look, and in this older version, the weight of the  metal buttons wreaks havoc on the lightweight new version is a bit more period correct, basted to cotton musin to give it some strength.

I have yet to gather up the sleeves, so they look a bit odd, but the back already looks better.  It's nice to be able to raise your arms above your head for the style of dance that was popular in this period.  

The front trapezoidal piece is cut from the Sari's pallu.  I haven't made the bib front piece yet.  It's a counterintuitive construction method for me, but figuring out the quirks of a new era has been interesting.  I look forward to this dress's debut as some kind of "east meets west" costume for the fancy dress ball in October.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

1812 Cotton Gown

In preparation for the Sailing Masters Ball this May, I've been working on a striped cotton voile 1812-1814 gown.  
Illustration from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion
The pattern was scaled up by SG from Janet Arnold, and miraculously, did not have to be altered much.  I was amazed at how tiny the back piece looked.

I am not as familiar with the construction of this era as I am with others, so I have been taking it very slow.  The next step is the one that terrifies me the most:  Attaching the gathered "bib" front.  The part I have already constructed will serve as a support, and a stay.

I was having real trouble visualizing how exactly it all goes together, so SG directed me to a great diagram she found from from the Etsy site of HerOdyssey.  I found them to be extremely helpful.

From Her Odyssey on Etsy

 The fabric, acquired as Osgood Textile in West Springfield, MA, was VERY sheer.  I backed it with plain white cotton muslin, and basted the layers together.  It's a lovely cream and pale tan stripe that works better for my complexion than stark white.  It gathered up rather easily across the narrow back piece.  I am still amazed at how tiny the pattern pieces looked.

The skirt:  Constructed of three trapezoids, and one rectangle gathered across the narrow center back.

The sleeve was drafted by SG as an alternative to just a straight puff sleeve.  She called it "tulip".  They are unlined, and hemmed.  The bulk of the gathering is much lower toward the back, south of the top of the shoulder than I had thought it would be.  My plan was to serge the sleeve and the lining together, rather than bind the armholes.

I decided that I needed a spring green silk taffeta bonnet to go with this ensemble, and to dress it up a bit.  I used a pattern that is more suited to the 1770s-1790s, but it's not too far off, and is much more likely to see use for Revolutionary War era events.

I had fun making the bows and the puffings.  I think it needs some more saturated spring green embellishments, though.

My deadline is the Regency picnic, and the ball May 10, 2014.  I have a show the same weekend.  Let's do this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who Doesn't Love a Man in Uniform

The Ninth Regiment of Foot's first Midwinter Ball was a success, despite a certain amount of winter weather.  We had a great time dancing to the music of the Reel Thing.  Our dance caller, was superb, and we had a solid attendance.  We look forward to doing the event again next year.

This event was the debut of the 1770s Royal Navy uniform I made for a certain gentleman.  It was a long time coming, as components and materials were hard to come by, but over all, I am pleased with the results, and I think it was worth the wait.

There are 32 buttons and 32 hand-stitched buttonholes on this thing, and miles and miles of lace.  I ran out of the limited supply of one-inch navy lace from Burnley and Trowbridge, and had to continue with the half-inch lace I was able to get from Ian at Royal Blue Traders.

The result is a bit different from the 1780 portrait of young Nelson, but I'll take it.

Even though his young dance partner stole the show in her pink striped silk anglaise (made by me and her other fairy godmother… more on this later…), he was rather dashing  Too bad I forgot to put the hooks and eyes in the coat, so it hangs open more than I would like.

The wool is extremely thick.  Built to withstand the elements.  It's a wonder he was able to keep it on all night.

Future plans for this ensemble include replacing the waistcoat and doing a bit more fitting on the breeches.  The small clothes were made by G. Gedney Godwin, and the wool they are made of is to die for, and beautifully soft.  However, "made to measure" left something to be desired.  The waistcoat when it arrived was miles and miles too big, and had to be completely dismantled, re-cut, and put back together.  That was a bit of a nightmare considering the buttonholes were already sewn and cut, and could not be moved.  Furthermore, the buttons were too few, and to far apart.  The breeches were also too big, but easier to salvage.  I may ask to buy a yard of the wool they used and just make my own with a linen back.

The coat is fully double breasted, and has some cool alternate buttoning options.

This project was quite a learning experience, and if I ever fall on my head and decide to do another, it will go a bit smoother.

As a costumer, it is imperative that one keep trying things just a bit more difficult and complex than the project before it.  I look forward to the next one.